Let’s start with the acknowledgement that a bunch of the players on this top-100 list will never make it to unfettered free agency in March. Some of them will sign long-term agreements with their current teams, others might be hit with a franchise tag. It’s even possible that some of them will choose to retire.
But, right now, in mid-January, this is a look at one hundred of the best players in the NFL who, unless something changes before 18 March, will be available for the Dutch auction that is NFL veteran free agency.
The Redskins roster has a number of question marks and holes. The team has good draft position, but no second-round pick (traded away to move up for Montez Sweat in 2019), so the Redskins are likely to need to be active in the free agent market in March. Some position groups seem more likely than others to generate interest from the Redskins front office in free agency.
The Redskins have some clear and obvious needs on the offensive side of the ball that cry out for help in veteran free agency.
Vernon Davis has reached the end of his contract and is expected to retire from football. Jordan Reed missed the entire season with a concussion that occurred in the pre-season. It is widely expected that he will be gone from the Redskins roster, either released by the front office or announcing his retirement himself.
Jeremy Sprinkle, who seemed adequate as the third-string tight end, showed his limitations when he was called on to fill in for the loss of both Reed and Davis this season. Hale Hentges, a rookie mid-season waiver wire pickup, seemed to outplay Sprinkle.
Most observers expect the Redskins to go in search of two quality tight ends this off-season, likely signing one veteran free agent and selecting a second in the draft.
The Redskins’ most high-profile free agent signing of 2018 was Paul Richardson Jr., but he has been injured for much of the two years he’s been on the roster, and has underperformed his contract when he has been on the field. It is widely expected that Richardson will be cut this off-season. That will leave the Redskins with a capable, but very young, corps of receivers and very little depth. The Redskins need to add at least one solid receiver to the group, and, given the current youth at the position, some have suggested that the front office should be targeting a veteran player, while others have pointed to the expense and relative lack of high-quality options, suggesting that the Redskins would be better off looking to the April draft to supplement their receiving group.
If we discount the notion that Alex Smith could be healthy enough to play during pre-season, then the Redskins have only one quarterback under contract — second-year signal caller, Dwayne Haskins Jr.
While it may be a good idea to use a mid-to-late round draft pick or UDFA to reinforce the position, the team almost certainly needs to sign a veteran free agent to back up Haskins and augment the coaching staff in aiding his development in 2020.
There are far too many question marks to reasonably discuss the strategy needed for the Redskins offensive line this off-season.
Both starting guards, Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers, are slated to become free agents, and the two interior linemen drafted in ‘19 (Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher) haven’t shown any evidence that they are ready to step up and play. Whether the front office re-signs the 2019 starters or looks to bring in veterans from other teams, the Redskins need to find two stating guards.
The Trent Williams situation, which, likely as much as anything else, helped end the reign of Brucifer, is now unsettled and open to speculation about what will eventuate. Ron Rivera has said he will attempt to mend fences with the Redskins star left tackle, but nothing is certain. He could return or be traded. Geron Christian Sr., in limited duty this season, appeared to be not-ready-for-prime-time. The Redskins may need to look to the draft or veteran free agency to replace Trent Williams/Donald Penn.
With a new coaching staff, even the right tackle, Morgan Moses, may not be secure. His play has fallen off a cliff over the past two seasons, and the incoming coaches may feel that the $4.85m that can be saved by cutting him could be better spent on a different player.
I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that the coaches coming from Carolina (which includes the head coach, OC and OL coach) might sign guard Greg Van Roten and/or RT Daryl Williams, who could both probably be signed fairly cheaply, and would go a long way towards filling roster holes and setting up a smooth transition for Scott Turner’s offense.
The defensive side of the ball has a more complete roster, and one that may be more easily supplemented in the draft. That said, there may be some opportunities to patch some thin spots in the defensive roster through veteran free agency.
Having just drafted Montez Sweat in 2019, the Redskins could possibly stand pat at DE as they change from a base 3-4 to a new 4-3 base under new DC Jack Del Rio. That said, Ryan Kerrigan is getting past his prime now, and could find a new coaching staff and front office prepared to trade him for draft picks. Ryan Anderson has been okay, but there may be opportunities to improve the position group. Of course, the Redskins could find themselves drafting Chase Young with the 2nd overall pick in April, so they may not need to do anything at all here.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Redskins avoid any big-splash signings at this position in March, but prepared to come back for a lower-profile signing (or trade) post-draft if they feel they need to bolster it.
Josh Norman is almost certainly gone from the Redskins following an atrocious season in 2019. The only thing I can imagine might save him could be nostalgia on the part of Ron Rivera.
The Redskins may be able to get a top-tier cornerback in the draft, especially if they trade back in the first round, but with Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland, the front office may be content to simply bolster the group with a draft pick or two. It seems unlikely that Rivera will spend big money on a free agent, unless it involves acquiring a CB that has played his system before. Unlike the offensive line, however, there is not a shared history between Rivera, DC Del Rio and DB Coach Chris Harris, who is coming from the Chargers, and I don’t see any obvious free agents connected to any of the three of them aside from the Panthers’ James Bradberry, whom I expect Carolina will try to retain.
The Redskins don’t have a screaming need for a free safety, but with Montae Nicholson and Troy Apke on the roster, there is certainly opportunity to upgrade the position via draft or free agency. I would expect the Redskins to avoid spending money in free agency on the safety position unless it is to bring in Tre Boston, who was drafted by Ron Rivera’s Panthers, and who played 3 1⁄2 seasons with Rivera, including 2019.
With the shift from a base 3-4 to a base 4-3, the Redskins will likely need a makeover at the linebacker position. With Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Cole Holcomb, the roster isn’t bare, but it also isn’t deep. I would expect the Redskins to try to both add players to this unit and upgrade the overall skill level. Of all the defensive positions on the team, this is the one where the front office seems most likely to look to veteran free agency.
Summary of likely positional priorities in free agency
- One veteran tight end
- Two veteran offensive guards
- One veteran quarterback
- Linebacking depth (starter/backup)
- (possibly one quality wide receiver)
- (possibly a DE/edge rusher)
- (possibly a cornerback)
- (possibly a free safety)
At the moment, OverTheCap estimates that the Redskins will have $44.5m in available cap space based on the current players under contract in 2020.
Cutting Josh Norman, Jordan Reed and Paul Richardson takes that number up to $66.2m.
If the Redskins trade Trent Williams, the number rises to $78.4m, but, of course, it creates another roster hole.
Trading Ryan Kerrigan could add a further $11.7m, and, as mentioned in the article, parting ways with Morgan Moses could add back $4.85m.
The top 100 free agents of 2020
This list was compiled by NFL Trade Rumors:
(To see a full list of upcoming free agents by position, click here)
Which of the following players do you think would be the best choice for the Redskins to sign this off-season?
This poll is closed
CB Byron Jones
WR A.J. Green
Edge Dante Fowler
CB James Bradberry
TE Austin Hooper
TE Hunter Henry
S Anthony Harris
TE Eric Ebron
QB Nate Sudfeld
QB Case Keenum